Gov. Susana Martinez said at a news conference Monday that she won’t push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in New Mexico in the upcoming legislative session.
Martinez said several times last summer — when several county clerks across the state began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples — that she believed state voters should decide the issue by way of a ballot question on whether to amend the state constitution.
“I think what I said before was that yes, the people should have decided on it, but the Supreme Court has decided,” the governor said Monday when asked by a reporter about the issue. “And it’s now the law of the land.”
Asked whether that meant she wouldn’t push for the Legislature to pass a measure like Sen. Bill Sharer’s Senate Joint Resolution 6, Martinez responded, “It’s the law of the land. The Supreme Court has spoken.”
Sharer’s measure would put on the general election ballot a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Proposed amendments to the constitution aren’t subject to a governor’s veto.
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled last month that it violates the state constitution to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. Immediately following the decision, county clerks across the state began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
The court rejected the main argument by a group of lawmakers, including Sharer, that the state has an interest in not allowing gays to marry because children do better when raised by a mother and a father.
Eight counties, including Santa Fe County, had been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for several months. Some, like Santa Fe, did so at the order of state district judges. But some county clerks, such as Doña Ana’s County’s Lynn Ellins, did so on their own interpretation of state law, which didn’t expressly prohibit or allow gay marriage.
On the day of the high court’s Dec. 19 decision, Martinez released a statement that seemed to imply that there are more important issues for the state to deal with.
“While there will surely be intense debate about this decision moving forward, I encourage New Mexicans to continue to respect one another in their discourse, as this is an important issue for many New Mexicans on both sides,” the statement said. “As we move forward, I am hopeful that we will not be divided, as we must come together to tackle very pressing issues, like reforming education and growing our economy, in the weeks and months ahead.”